For Release March 31, 2015
Staten Island Elected Officials & NY City Firefighters Ask: Would You Risk Your Life For $27/Day?
Two recent fires are examples of the importance of NY City Firefighters in the lives of Staten Islanders. On March 16th, sixteen firefighters were injured, one seriously, at a 4-alarm blaze on a row of townhouses in Rossville; a total of 170 firefighters responded. On March 17th, another fire in Arden Heights claimed the lives of a husband and wife as thirteen FDNY units responded.
Over the last week Staten Island elected officials have stepped forward in a campaign to show they stand in support of New York’s bravest that protect their constituents and communities they serve.
There are now over 1,400 newly hired FDNY firefighters who lack any real disability protections. Should they be burned, seriously injured or paralyzed on the job, the disability protection for a Probationary (Rookie) Firefighter equals only about $10,000 per year or $27 per day. The Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) and firefighters say corrective legislation is urgently needed to address this crisis which stems from a June 2009 veto of New York City Firefighter and Police Tier II disability protections.
Probationary FDNY Firefighter Angela Tepedino of Engine 47 and a resident of Rossville said, “Every day I come to work with my head up high, willing to sacrifice, and go above and beyond the call of duty, but all I ask in return is that my family be taken care of, God forbid something should happen to me.” Angela is one of the faces of the newest FDNY recruits speaking up about the problem in videos produced by the UFA. They can be viewed at: http://ufanyc.org/.
UFA President Steve Cassidy said, “Would you risk your life and health for only $27 a day? It’s horrific that the top leadership in City Hall is saying that $10,000 a year is all the disability protection that a New York City Firefighter - the best trained firefighter in the world – will receive if permanently disabled on the job. Do they believe disabled firefighters can survive, pay their rent, feed their family and afford to send their children to college on this meager sum? Recently, the mayor demanded a minimum hourly wage of $13/hour in the City of New York, but yet a new, young firefighter protecting the public is only worth a fraction of that if he or she is permanently disabled?”
Numerous Staten Island elected officials support state legislation S4269/A6046 which would provide for equal disability protections for all FDNY firefighters, should they be seriously injured in the line of duty.
Councilman Vincent Ignizio (District 51) said, “The city and indeed this state had many many politicians who came in 2001 and said what, ‘We’ll never forget.’ Everybody had it on their signs, everyone had it on the cars, ‘Never forget.’ Well it seems that some people in this city, in this state, have forgotten. And it is our job, by the elected officials on both sides of the aisle, to stand together and make sure that those words ‘Never forget,’ are actually held true.”
Senator Diane Savino (District 23) said, “The ranks of the FDNY are finally becoming more representative of the city, but now diversity also exists among the benefits they receive. We have more minorities and women, and NOW we can't afford these benefits? Black lives matter - but apparently not when they're in uniform.”
Senator Andrew Lanza (District 24) said, “Our firefighters have dangerous jobs and they risk their lives to protect our families and communities, and often suffer serious injuries and illnesses as a result. We need to ensure that every firefighter could obtain the disability benefits they deserve when they are harmed protecting our lives.”
Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis (District 64) said, “The brave men and women of the FDNY risk their lives each and every day to protect our community and keep us safe. They don't hesitate to run into burning buildings or other dangerous situations to save others, putting their own lives in harm's way. The least we can do as a state is to ensure that, if they are disabled in the line of duty, they get the protection they deserve. There shouldn't be a double standard for firefighters that have come into the department after 2009. They should receive the same 3/4 benefit that their brothers and sisters do.”
Assembly Member Michael Cusick (District 63) said, “The veto of the extender bill by the Governor in 2009 should never have happened. There is no reason why new hires should not receive the same disability benefits if they are injured. These brave men and women who run into burning buildings to save lives should not have to worry how they will take care of their families should an accident occur. I voted for the extender bill in 2009 and continue to support this year’s bill by Assemblyman Abbate to give those hired after 2009 the same disability protections as the rest of the FDNY.”
NY City Public Advocate Letitia James said, “All that we are asking is that there be parity in the system, and that we respect all firefighters, all police officers, and treat them the same under the law. I want equality, I want parity, I want all of their pensions to be treated equally… God forbid should anything happen to them, I do not want any of these first responders to have to live on $27/Day. It is unconscionable; it is unacceptable that our government would not put on their desk immediately a pension bill that would give them parity now and forever.”
Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO said, "Our hard-working first responders put their lives on the line each and every day helping to keep us safe. The fact that the City would willingly strip our firefighters of necessary disability protections, knowing the dangers they face, is a slap in the face to these workers and their families. We cannot and will not sit idly by while workers' commitments to protecting our safety are trivialized."
The UFA also introduced two new videos which chronicle the serious and significant concerns: “$27/Day” and “Recruiting Lies”containing interviews with impacted firefighters addressing their fears about lacking real disability protections. Firefighters are encouraging fellow New Yorkers to stand with New York’s Bravest by signing an online petition asking elected officials to restore real disability protections for the city’s newest firefighters. .
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